Bone tumors are caused by bone lesions (damage to the bone). These lesions can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Both cancerous and benign bone tumors can cause problems with movement and potentially damage other tissues and joints.
A malignant lesion that starts in the bone – bone cancer – can multiply in the body and spread to other areas, most often in the lungs. In addition, cancers that originate in other parts of the body can spread into bone, and this is known as metastatic bone disease. Another type of musculoskeletal cancer affects tissues that surround the bone, such as muscle or fat. This is called soft-tissue sarcoma.
Bone cancer affects all age groups, but certain ones like osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma are more common in children, while chondrosarcoma is more common in adults. Benign lesions are often stable and do not require treatment. However, some could grow in a location that can affect proper movement and mobility in the body.
Diagnosing a bone lesion and determining whether it is cancerous involves blood tests, CT and MRI imaging, followed by a biopsy if needed. For lesions that do not appear cancerous or destructive, serial images over time can be obtained and compared for changes, and biopsy is often unnecessary. Malignant lesions are usually treated with surgery to remove the tumor, but may require other forms of treatment like chemotherapy or radiation therapy as well.